528 Divisadero St., NOPA/Western Addition
Status: Opening tonight
Divisadero has its share of new businesses moving in, but in the case of Ziryab, what's old is new again. The seven-year-old Middle Eastern restaurant on Divisadero is reopening today after a major revamp that moved the kitchen further back, refreshed the menu, and installed a gleaming new bar that's stocked to the gills.
Ziryab was once known as a popular hookah hangout, but no longer offers it due to the city's indoor-smoking ban (though owner Salim Nasser says he still gets multiple calls a day asking about it). Instead, Nasser is putting Ziryab on the map as a cocktail destination, thanks to bar manager and Hog & Rocks alum Zachary Taylor. Don't come to Ziryab expecting a boring drink: Taylor has taken the challenge of creating a cocktail list to pair with Middle Eastern flavors in stride, adding elements like arak, yogurt liquor, and infusions with basil, date, and rose-petal infusions to his drinks. One cocktail pairs tequila, fig-garlic puree, lemon and Benedictine, and another combines arak, Bols yogurt, Pavan, and grated cinnamon. The "Ziryab Manhattan" includes date-infused Bulleit rye, vermouth, lapsang souchang-infused angostura bitters, and orange peel.
Chef Khalid El Mourabit has cooked in France, Greece, Italy, and his native Morocco, and is primed to offer a blend of Moroccan, Spanish and Middle Eastern dishes to honor the restaurant's namesake, a 9th-century musician, poet and arbiter of taste who made his way from Iraq to Spain and is credited with bringing many fresh ideas to Europe. The original Ziryab was nicknamed the "black bird' for his dark skin and singing talents, and the restaurant bears numerous details that pay tribute to him, such as an illuminated map of his travels and the "Pajaro Negro," a cocktail with mezcal, Cynar, Galliano Ristretto and orange peel.
El Mourabit's menu includes classic Middle Eastern offerings like kebab and falafel, but with a few twists, like nicoise-style sardines with tomato confit and potatoes, or mussels with saffron mustard sauce. Moroccan tagine sits side by side with shawerma and fresh salads. (Here's a sample menu.) And from the pita and falafel to the yogurt and spice mixes, everything on the menu is homemade in-house.
Nasser plans to reopen the back patio in the near future, while will seat 16-20 additional diners. After soft-opening today, Ziryab will close tomorrow, then reopen with regular hours beginning Wednesday. The bar and kitchen will be open from 5pm-1am daily, making this one of the rare spots serving late-night grub on Divis.